politics

Arrest of ex-justice minister could hasten Abe's departure

40 Comments
By Linda Sieg and Yoshifumi Takemoto

The arrest of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's former justice minister could be a devastating blow for the Japanese leader whose support is near record lows, raising the possibility of his departure before the end of his term next year.

Some in Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) are speaking of an early exit and rivals have stepped up maneuvering to succeed him, party sources said. While Abe has rebounded from low ratings before, Japan's longest-ruling prime minister now appears to be losing more internal support.

Prosecutors on Thursday arrested former justice minister Katsuyuki Kawai, a one-time foreign policy adviser close to Abe, and Kawai's wife, Anri, on suspicion of vote-buying in a 2019 upper-house election.

Tokyo prosecutors said in a statement that the couple paid 1.7 million yen to five people to get her elected. Separately, Katsuyuki Kawai gave a total of about 24 million yen to about 90 people.

At the time, Anri Kawai's campaign received 150 million yen in funds from LDP headquarters. The size of the contribution, although not illegal, raised questions about whether Abe approved it.

Abe has declined to comment on the Kawais, but has said lawmakers had the responsibility to explain their actions.

"Abe cannot last," said an LDP lawmaker who, like other politicians interviewed, spoke on condition of anonymity. "He probably cannot last until the year-end."

The scandal has further eroded the support of voters already frustrated by Abe's handling of coronavirus stimulus, which has been seen as slow, and out-of-touch. He has also been hit by a backlash over his attempt to raise the retirement age of prosecutors, which was seen as undermining judicial independence.

"Huge amounts of money circulated in the dark," Noriko Saito, a 65-year-old Tokyo housewife, said about the latest scandal. "Mr Abe has a heavy responsibility."

Abe returned to the prime minister's office in December 2012. His third term as LDP leader, and hence premier, ends in September 2021.

Ousting a prime minister is tough and Abe, who quit in 2007 after a troubled first term, may want to avoid a similarly hasty exit this time.

But jockeying by potential successors is heating up.

"Abe has a number on his back and that number is September 2021," said Jesper Koll, senior adviser at fund manager WisdomTree Investments. "Challengers within the LDP are on the on-ramp and ready to take off."

Former foreign minister Fumio Kishida, an Abe loyalist plagued by weak public support, set up an intra-party group to create a "vision for a post-coronavirus world" this month, in an apparent effort to raise his profile.

A former defense minister, Shigeru Ishiba, an Abe critic who polls well with voters but has weak support among LDP parliamentarians, has been cultivating ties with powerful LDP Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai.

There is also speculation that Defense Minister Taro Kono is angling for the top job. Even if Abe serves out his term, chances of a substantial rebound that would restore his control over the party appear slim, especially with the economy headed for its worst slump since World War Two.

"Abe's handling of the coronavirus might be not that bad but he has too many other problems," said an LDP veteran lawmaker."Besides, he's been in power so long that people are fed up."

Japan has not suffered an explosive coronavirus surge but critics have pointed to a slow early response and delays in much-needed support payments.

Abe had hoped for a far different year in 2020 - presiding over the Tokyo Olympics, leading his party to an election victory and perhaps even winning a rare fourth term as LDP leader.

That scenario began to unravel in March when the coronavirus forced the postponement of the Games.

His voter ratings fell below 30% in two opinion polls last month - often seen as a danger sign. A June 5-7 survey by the Nikkei business daily showed an 11 point drop to 38%.

He has one wild card: he could call a snap general election to renew his mandate.

Party insiders said that was unlikely but could not be ruled out. He has already led his party to victory in five elections.

"The Abe government won't last unless he threatens LDP politicians with a snap election," said a senior LDP official.

Abe's other strength lies in his rivals' weakness.

"I'd like to see a change of administration," said Chisato Tanaka, a 26-year-old translator. "But there's no one in particular I'd like to see become premier."

© Thomson Reuters 2020.

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

40 Comments
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Crooked Abe seems to have used up his nine lives. Will the party allow him to stay on to reprise his role as Super Mario and bask in the glory of Tokyo 2021? Or will he be knifed before?

14 ( +15 / -1 )

We can only hope it hasten Abes departure.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

Can’t wait to see the back of him

9 ( +10 / -1 )

He needs a break.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

His voter ratings fell below 30% in two opinion polls last month - often seen as a danger sign. A June 5-7 survey by the Nikkei business daily showed an 11 point drop to 38%.

38% has been enough strong in Japan.

If a reporter tells that a prime minister is in danger, according to this rating, it is not a objective evaluation, but is merely his or her wish.

 

On the other hand, the political dynamics in LDP is getting very complicated.

The chief cabinet secretary, Suga, who recommended the ex-justice minister Kawai and his wife,

seems rapidly losing power inside the LDP.

The secretary general, Nikai, a famous "Panda hugger" and a power broker is seeking a rival candidate. Though Ishiba is well known as a powerful candidate, he is popular just outside the LDP, therefor he shall not be a candidate.

So it is a great interest who is decided as a next leader of the LDP.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Abe’s position is perfectly safe. Remember, its Japan.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

One wonders whether the arrest, and the political fallout, would have come to pass had Abe's favourite prosecutor kept his job.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

About frigging time. I've been waiting for ages for them to replace this out of touch fool who I can't stand with one of the many other out of touch fools who I can't stand that the LDP has an endless supply of.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Separately, Katsuyuki Kawai gave a total of about 24 million yen to about 90 people.

Easy come easy go.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

And have him replaced by Aso..? Yikes !!

9 ( +9 / -0 )

I'd like to see a change of administration," said Chisato Tanaka, a 26-year-old translator. "But there's no one in particular I'd like to see become premier."

Chisato, so see you no one even in the opposition ? No wonder the country is almost a one party state despite the numerous LDP scandals.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Dont know how he managed to keep the sharks from within the LDP at bay, but the time has come and the feeding frenzy will begin. As his opponents start poking more and more at him, Abe will be forced into calling a snap election, and that is his ONLY way of possibly staying in power until the end of his term.

The odds of him getting the LDP to change their rules again to allow him another term are turning into a pipe dream.

I for one would LOVE to see Abe fall, the corona virus somehow disappear, and the Olympics get held WITHOUT Abe at the helm, it would be a huge rebuke and embarrassment for Abe!

7 ( +8 / -1 )

You can always just pretend you have a sudden bout of IBS again like you did in 2007 when the going got tough.

Abe truly is the wrongest premiere in Japan's post-war history. Sorry that was supposed to say longest. Ls and rs y'know. A tricky thing for the Japanese.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Yeah!!! Get him out!!!!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

A more sanctimonious pack of hypocrites you’re not likely to find. Zealously proactive when it comes to prosecuting their enemies for far milder infractions; they’re forever inviting the wrath of the gods in their cynical, expediency driven, ends justifies the means 嘘も方便 disregard of both the letter and spirit of the law.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Yesterday, Prime minister press conference was mere farce among prime minister,cabinet office and press club.

unlike other countries,

Tough questions were almost nothing despite incompetent against Coronavirus or irresponsibility about many scandal.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The only reason Abe will leave is that he passed his "sell by" date during his first term, and people are just now catching on...

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Abe was doing good until the Olympic cancellation and COVID, both of which he is not responsible for. His immigration reforms, while not a game changer, was more than anybody else has ever done. The under tow of rightism and nationalism was a bit concerning, but Abe was the answer to Hatoyama, Kan and Noda, the 3 infamous loons of Japan, much in parallel with the US Dem loon team. Kans heli hose solution to fukushima will never be forgotten. I dont think Mr Abe is as far right or nuts as an Ishihara or similar nutter. Koike san...not for sure.

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

My Abe masks arrived last week. To add insult to injury for the extreme late arrival the masks are so small they are totally useless! How can he continue in the face of this rort to the taxpayer. Not enough to siphon the money for them and to arrive well after the emergency BUT to make them useless as well. Even the most apolitical of Japanese I kew can see through this scam and they don't like i

2 ( +2 / -0 )

PMs in Japan since 2020.

Do you remember anyone below ?

 2000 - Yoshirou Mori

 2001 - Jyunichiro Koizumi

 2007 - Yasuo Fukuda

 2008 - Taro Asou

 2009 - Yukio Hatoyama

 2010 - Naoto Kan

 2011 - Yoshihiko Noda

 

And current leaders of parties in Japan (order of popular ratings).

 Yukio Edano (Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan)

 Ichiro Matsui (Japan Innovation Party)

 Natsuo Yamaguchi (Koumeito)

 Kazuo Shii (Japanese Communist Party)

 Yuichiro Tamaki (National Democratic Party)

 MIzuho Fukushima, Taro Yamamoto, Takashi Tachibana etc.

 

Men, it's really a nightmare I don't have better choice than even Abe.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

"Huge amounts of money circulated in the dark," Noriko Saito, a 65-year-old Tokyo housewife, said 

It's been like this for decades Noriko-san.

From the days of Yoshio Kodama to Kakuei Tanaka, Noboru Takeshita, Shin Kanemaru, and Fumio Abe; these 'Kingmakers' were all noted for their financial acumen!

Just read ex-Ambassador Khoon Choy Lee's book entitled, 'Japan - Between Myth And Reality' - Ch 8 Corridors of Power!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The one I remember most is Shin Kanemaru-memorable for hiding from justice in a wheelchair in hospital and his big hoard!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

ABA - Anyone but Abe?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Money laundering by another name.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Good riddance to old rubbish.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

"Huge amounts of money circulated in the dark," Noriko Saito, a 65-year-old Tokyo housewife, said about the latest scandal.

The opinion of a "Tokyo housewife"... Clearly an inside expert on the matter. Great reporting.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Abe was the answer to Hatoyama, Kan and Noda, the 3 infamous loons of Japan, much in parallel with the US Dem loon team. Kans heli hose solution to fukushima will never be forgotten.

What are you on about? Kan was one of the few decent, self made J-politicians ( unlike the silver spoon fed princelings like Abe and Aso )..and he did his best during Fukushima crisis while Tepco was stonewalling al the way. Dont forget N-village responsible for the Dai ichi fiasco was entirely created by LDP and its JInc cronies. Abe,s govt exemplifies the worst of LDP arrogance .

4 ( +5 / -1 )

TheLongTermerToday  07:40 pm JST

Abe was doing good...

Was he? Examples of how he was "doing good?" The country certainly wasn't doing so good.

His immigration reforms, while not a game changer, was more than anybody else has ever done.

But not much more really, seems to be what you're saying. If all he has to show for eight years in power is something like that, well....

...but Abe was the answer to Hatoyama, Kan and Noda, the 3 infamous loons of Japan...*

None of them were as inept, autocratic and corrupt as Abe has been.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Yes, I agree with what a life you are saying. I hope to God that this hastens Abe’s departure. Because with all this crooked dark money, as well as he dressing up as super Mario at the end of the Rio Olympics in 2016, indeed, he needs to go.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Nothing will change. LDP will still be winning in a landslide.

Politicians will remain the most lucrative profession.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Maybe it wont.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

“...what a lot you are saying.” My mistake.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Ishiba is the guy. He is smart, intelligent, popular with the Japanese electorate but unfortunately had weak support within the LDP Diet members. Ishiba is a policy wonk and has a near perfect grip on the issues. I wish Nikai would help him to win hearts within the LDP and become the next PM.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I concur with everything that has been said here. It is painfully obvious Japan will never have a great leader like Donald Trump.

Hell's bells. We can't even get someone like Boris Johnson,

Japan and the Japanese are completely hopeless.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Abe will be here forever. It doesn't matter what he has or hasn't done. There is nobody else.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Although lots of people would like to see the back of him. He has an annoying habit of surviving scandals from Moritomo to this Mahjong betting business. It wouldn't be surprising if he carries on, seeing how forgiving the Japanese are...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

B. JayToday  02:38 am JST

Ishiba is the guy. He is smart, intelligent, popular with the Japanese electorate but unfortunately had weak support within the LDP Diet members.

That's what tends to happen in the LDP when you don't have a relative called Abe, Sato or Kishi.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Arrest of ex-justice minister could hasten Abe's departure

good riddance

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@ Henny Penny

”Japan will never have a great leader like Donald Trump.

Hell's bells. We can't even get someone like Boris Johnson,“

This is a satirical comment no?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Kobe White Bar OwnerJune 20  08:21 pm JST

@ Henny Penny

”Japan will never have a great leader like Donald Trump.

Hell's bells. We can't even get someone like Boris Johnson,“

This is a satirical comment no?

Amazingly some people continually profess online that Trump and Johnson are 100% righteous dudes, but I think they're either paid campaign workers or just having a laugh. The joke's got a bit stale though.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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